Thursday, November 21, 2002

A thousand Jamaican schoolchildren demonstrated against violent crime yesterday, the Observer reports. That country's murder toll for 2002 has hit 939; more than 70 of the victims have been children. The Observer, in its editorial today, pleads with the Patterson government to act decisively before Jamaica collapses entirely into anarchy:

"Mr Patterson must be aware of the grave danger, if the current circumstances continue, of his leaving Jamaica a failed state — a country of enclaves controlled by warlords. The prime minister should not think this notion far-fetched. His own security minister has conceded that there are areas of the country where the state has no effective security control, where justice and law enforcement are essentially the preserve of the "dons" and community leaders, so-called."

Meanwhile, Michael Burke, again in the Observer, suggests that a revival of the old colonial system of transportation (i.e. getting rid of criminals by shipping them off to an obscure corner of the world) could be the solution to Jamaica's crisis of violence:

" a short-term measure, we should be transporting prisoners to a South American country that our government has worked out a deal with. For example, Guyana or Belize.

"Some point out that such a thing is against an internationally agreed convention. But I am sure that we could get around that. Couldn't we give the prisoners a choice? Either they go to some agreed place voluntarily or they serve a tough prison sentence here for their crimes? In that way it would not be forced, would it?"

No, this isn't a Swiftian modest proposal; Burke appears to be quite serious. But he can't have thought this through very carefully — does he really believe that Kingston's brutal gunmen, set loose in the jungles of Guyana, would spontaneously form a little model society to the benefit of their host country? An idea this absurd reveals astonishing despair. How widespread is that despair in Jamaica right now?

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